Books Read 2020

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Weed Walking

 

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I went for a short Weed Walk (twice, actually) along a quiet country roadside.  There were several interesting grass and weed specimens to look at.

I like the unfurling fronds on this Bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum).




Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is classified as a pest, but where it had been left to roam the air was filled with delicious scent and it was difficult to think of it as being ill-favoured.




Several grasses were in flower, including this perennial Cocksfoot grass (Dactylis glomerata)

Cocksfoot first arrived here in 1867 and is still popular today as it makes a good compliment to Ryegrass when used in pasture mixes.




Timothy grass (Phleum pratense) is another important perennial pasture grass.  It is both palatable and nutritious for stock, and traditionally makes the best hay for feeding to horses.




Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) always looks too pretty to be called a weed, but it can be very invasive.  Cattle will not eat it and most herbicides are ineffective against it, with the best form of control appearing to be grazing by sheep.




The yellow Lotus (Lotus uliginosus) is also known as the Greater Bird’s Foot Trefoil.  It has proved valuable as a pasture legume, especially in areas where White Clover has difficulty in getting established.




Wild life must love areas like this, providing them with shelter and food.  In this age of agricultural efficiency, it is good to see that some farmers still allow a few of these corners to survive.




I hope everyone is having a great week 😊

Margaret.



Wednesday, 25 November 2020

A Drive In The Country

 

At the end of last week, on a gorgeous sunny day (it is pouring with rain today!), I jumped in the car and went for a drive out of the city.  I didn’t have any set destination in mind and I never traveled too far, so I was home again in a few hours.

I headed for Pirongia first, a small village close beside and named after this semi-dormant volcano.




Pirongia’s Heritage and Visitor Centre was still closed (I was too early) so my visit was short – but it became a timely stop as I took two phone calls while wandering around here.




I love balmy days in the country, and this day the air was heavy in places with the smell of honeysuckle and privet – I know many dislike privet (because of hayfever) but I actually love the scent of the flowers.

This tangled gully was full of birds and bees, and wafted out clouds of scent on the breeze.




Nearby is Kakepuku Mountain, another semi-dormant volcanic cone and a place where we once lived for a short time.

Although now covered with bush and farmland, this mount was once a virtual food basket with its slopes covered in gardens and fruit trees that supplied the resident Maori pa as well as a good proportion of the surrounding district.




This path (which is steep and often slippery) leads to the top of Kakepuku Mountain, where great views can be obtained of the surrounding countryside.




I went for a short Weed Walk along this quiet country road.  I rather enjoy seeing what is growing wild along the roadside.




It is always a pleasure to leave the city behind for a while and remember what rural areas are like – my father used to sneeringly call such drivers Sunday Drivers as they tootled past.  I really don’t know what he had against them.

Keep smiling 😊

Margaret.


Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Artisan Bread

 

Words fail to adequately describe the wonderful smell of freshly cooked bread.  It is a cozy warm smell that wraps around one and infuses the senses with a double dose of domestic harmony – and an overwhelming desire to eat some!

I had that experience this morning when I bought a loaf of organic sourdough multi-grain bread that had not long been removed from the oven. 

With a certain amount of will-power I managed to resist eating any of it until lunchtime, and then found it delicious and filling.  Artisan bread is so different to commercially baked bread.




I bought the bread while checking out two organic shops that I had heard about, and also purchased lamb sausages and beef patties as well as a dozen free-range eggs.

The chickens are allowed to roam free on an organic farm, with their houses being moved each week to a fresh location.  No colouring agents (to make the yolk yellow) are used – “What you get in our eggs is what the chickens make.”  We will see tomorrow whether they pass the taste test or not.




Neither shop had a very impressive range of organic fruit and vegetables so I avoided purchasing any of them, but did find a small shaker of dried sea-lettuce and this lovely comb.

The comb handle is made from sustainable sandalwood and the comb teeth are made using ox horn.  It has a very satisfying tactile feel and combs my long hair without any problems.




A quick visit to the local supermarket was needed to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables, and then back home before the rain arrived.

It is always a good feeling to get the shopping finished before the weather turns bad 😊

Margaret.



Monday, 23 November 2020

Memorable Highlights

 

As it is ten years since I first visited my daughter and son-in-law in America, I thought it would be nice to post some highlights of some of the places I was privileged to visit.

This is me at the Hoover Dam.  The Dam marks the border between Nevada and Arizona and this was taken on the Arizona side.




Being based at Flagstaff, it went without saying that we had to visit the Grand Canyon.  I found the place breath-takingly spectacular and loved it, especially when we were able to get away from the usual tourist spots.




We visited the Arizona Snowbowl (ski resort) and wandered amongst the bare trunks of aspen trees.  At 9200 feet in early winter, and being accustomed to seaside conditions, I found it rather cold!




We spent one day visiting Sunset Crater, with all its volcanic associations, as well as taking a fascinating walk around the Wupatki Ruins.  It is believed about 100 Pueblo Indians used to live here until around 1200AD.  It is one of several ruins in the area but is the main site open to visitors.




Walking through the Upper Antelope slot canyon with our Navajo guide was a magical experience. 

This view was taken looking up towards the narrow aperture at the top of the canyon.  Hard to believe that water bubbles up out of there during flood times.




Zion National Park was perhaps my favourite destination, and we spent a pleasant night in a pretty campground there.   

I think I could rave on forever about the beauty of Zion, especially the massive rock faces that we saw there.




Bryce Canyon was another remarkable place we visited, and I found the upright hoodoos an amazing sight.

This photo was taken from Paria View, further up the canyon.




I wrote about our visit to the Sonoran Desert in this post here 




I also got to visit other places and experience many new things.  It was an extremely busy and very happy three weeks of my life.

Having wonderful memories adds to the enjoyment of living 😊

Margaret.


Saturday, 21 November 2020

The Sonoran Desert

 

It is ten years today since I was fortunate enough to visit this area of the Sonoran Desert in south-western Arizona with my daughter and son-in-law.




I found that the desert had a beauty all of its own.




Sometimes I was very glad we were exploring in a 4WD vehicle!




This area is full of cacti, perhaps the best known being the saguaro cactus trees (although not all will grow ‘arms’).  It is the largest cactus to grow in the United States.




Saguaro have a shallow root system that spreads out around it as far as it is tall.  They are also extremely slow growing but can live for up for to 200 years.




The Agua Fria river was looking deceptively calm on the day we visited, but evidence of flood waters could be seen high up on trees growing beside it.




On our way home to Flagstaff we could see these clouds ahead of us.  It snowed overnight.




This was my first visit to Arizona and I loved my time there. 

Margaret 😊


LINKING UP WITH YOGI AT Skywatch Friday


Thursday, 19 November 2020

A Little Mischief

 

Our household has expanded from including a pair of rats to having a mischief (pack) of rats.

Son has purchased two young bucks to join his older ones and they arrived here last evening.




Meet Shadow, known as a Berkshire Rat as he is black all over.




And this is Spook, a Hooded Mink (meaning his head is mink coloured).




For now they will live in the small cage, placed beside the larger one where Templeton and Mello reside. 

There was much excitement when the larger rats ‘discovered’ the younger ones.




Within a week it should be possible to introduce the younger bucks into the big cage.  Both pairs have come from the same breeder (although they are not related) so there should be some smell memory present to help with bonding, although older rats are generally known to adopt and care for younger ones.




Although I am not musophobic (having an irrational fear of rodents), I have a deep-seated suspicion about rats and mice and so I refuse to handle them.

That does not stop me from appreciating the personalities and intelligence of these pet rats, who have little resemblance to the common wild rats I grew up with.




I hope everyone is enjoying a great week 😊

Margaret.



Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Afghan Biscuits

 

I am no sure how politically correct it is to call these biscuits (cookies) Afghans, but I have never heard them called anything else.  They have been a firm favourite in our family for decades, and I cooked up some this morning as a special treat for us.




They are quite simple to make.   

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, then measure out 2oz cornflakes and finely crush them (I use a potato masher for this job).




Beat together 7oz butter and 3oz sugar until creamy.




Sift together 6oz flour and 1oz cocoa powder.  Mix with the crushed cornflakes and stir them into the creamed mixture until everything is well mixed.




Turn out the mixture and divide into three roughly equal portions.  Divide each portion into eight segments, to give 24 biscuits in total.




Roll each segment into a ball and place on a greased baking tray.  Using a fork (dipping it in water helps to stop it sticking), lightly press down each ball to form a biscuit.




Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 10-12 minutes until cooked.  Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a cake rack to finish cooling.




While the biscuits are baking, prepare the icing (frosting).  Sift together 6oz icing sugar (powdered/confectioner’s sugar) and 2 teaspoons cocoa powder. 

Add enough cold water to mix to a stiff icing (only add in tiny amounts or it will become too runny).




Once the Afghans are cool enough to touch (but still warm), place a small dollop of icing on the top of each.  A piece of walnut pressed into the icing is a traditional decoration.




Allow the Afghans to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container.  Layers can be separated using a double layer of waxed paper or something similar.

Then all that remains is to eat them 😊

Margaret.


Note that these are a lot smaller than many modern biscuits, especially commercially produced ones.  This is the size that was common around 50 years ago when I first began baking.



Monday, 16 November 2020

Bananas

 

Almost every week a new bunch of bananas makes its way into our home, to be used mostly for eating fresh and for making smoothies.

Bananas would be our biggest food waste item (on average, about 2-3 bananas a week) as they often go bad before we have eaten them all.




Wasting food is not good for our environment or our pocket, so we are looking at how we can change things for the better.

One idea was to slow down how fast they ripened, and we heard this could be done by wrapping the crown (the stem end) in tinfoil or plastic food wrap.  Has anyone tried this?

Another idea was to keep them in the fridge, but I know that doing that will prevent them from ever ripening.  We normally allow our bananas to ripen in the fruit bowl and then transfer them to the fridge.

(What to store them in, in the fridge, is another problem – any ideas anyone?)

A third idea we thought of was to freeze the bananas once they were ripe, but I tried this once and the skins were almost impossible to remove so have not bothered again.




Perhaps I really just need to do more cooking – banana cake and chocolate banana muffins would soon disappear!

Have a great day 😊

Margaret.


Saturday, 14 November 2020

Shopping Good And Bad

 

I have done some shopping this past week and the results have been mixed. 

I am very pleased with this white towel set, although I never would have bought it if it hadn’t been on a substantial sales discount.  I mean, who wants to pay $49 for one bathroom towel, regardless of how soft and well-made it is?




My worst purchase was two punnets of strawberries from our local supermarket.  Not having my glasses on I thought the berries were pale because they were a little unripe.  Wrong!  

They were pale and very mushy because they had been incorrectly stored.  I would hazard a guess they had actually been frozen – and they were totally inedible.




I have been wanting some Dubonnet for a pre-dinner aperitif but nobody seems to stock it locally.  Online shopping to the rescue!

I purchased two bottles, plus a bottle of gin to mix with it, from a store in Wellington and it arrived by courier within 40 hours.  Excellent service from the Moore Wilsons Company.




We have had a sunny Saturday here today, with a bit of a breeze and a few clouds.  I was amazed in the morning to see two blackbirds feasting on the feijoa tree.  Hopefully they weren’t destroying the flowers!

Enjoy your weekend 😊

Margaret.